Having difficult conversations with aging parents often becomes necessary as the years pass. One of the hardest conversations you might ever have is convincing a senior loved one it’s time to stop driving.
Driving has always been a symbol of independence. Most seniors got their driver’s license in their mid to late teens and have been happily motoring ever since. For some older adults who have become increasingly dependent on others, being able to drive is something they cling to.
Unfortunately, seniors oftentimes don’t recognize that their driving skills have diminished and that they’ve become a safety risk to themselves and others. This means it’s time to have “the talk” with your parent and ask (or convince) them to turn over the keys.
Here are some tips that can make that conversation easier:
Start the conversation with questions
For example, you might calmly ask, “Mom, how are you feeling about driving lately? Do you have any concerns?” Focusing the discussion on their thoughts and concerns can help keep the conversation amicable.
Actively listen and read between the lines
For example, if your parent tells you they can still drive and don’t want to impose on you, discuss why they feel it would be an imposition. This can allow you to let them know that driving for them or arranging transportation isn’t a problem and you’d be happy to do it.
Even if they know it, no one likes to be told they shouldn’t do something. Demanding that your loved one stops driving will only cause frustration, denial, or hostility on their part.
Don’t make it a family meeting
Having a group of people telling them it’s time to stop driving may make your loved one feel like everyone is ganging upon them. The conversation will go much better if it’s had a one-on-one with a trusted family member.
Give them time to get used to the idea that they shouldn’t be driving and let them adjust to something difficult for them to face. You might need to revisit the subject more than once over the next several weeks.
If your loved one gets angry, drop the subject and wait until they’re in a better frame of mind to talk about it again. If someone is yelling, it’s time to take a step back and resume the discussion later.
Research transportation alternatives
Before you talk, have a plan for how they’ll manage to get around without a car. Present options near their home and the places they visit most often. Consider public transportation, ridesharing (Uber, Lyft), family and friends, and non-profits like the American Cancer Society that have free, volunteer-run transportation programs.
Involve a third party if necessary
As their child, your word alone may not be enough to convince your parent to stop driving. Consider asking their doctor to meet with both of you and talk about the situation, or go with your parent to the DMV and have them tested as a new driver, including written tests.
Talk with your senior loved one about giving up driving before it’s an emergency. Start the conversation before there’s a medical diagnosis or severely declining eyesight. Starting small can ease them into the change – suggest they stop driving long distances, at night, or in inclement weather.
Dependable Senior Care Can Help
Our caregivers help seniors with a variety of home care services, including shopping and running errands for our clients, which can help keep your loved one from getting behind the wheel.
If your loved one living in Palm Beach or Broward needs assistance aging gracefully in place, contact us today to schedule a FREE in-home assessment to discuss your senior’s needs.